Promises of high-paying foreign jobs too good to be true


Dear Joyce: Answering an ad for jobs in Australia, I was told to send $165 for a guide to employment opportunities and a videotape. What do you think? L.S.

Dear L.S.: Australia's unemployment rate at 9 percent is higher than ours. So what do you think?

Christopher Sweeney, a spokesman for the Australian Embassy in Washington, is quoted in a Washington newspaper as saying that the outdated brochure has wrong information and the videotape is a Rand-McNally tourist production showing the country's sights.

One couple last month traveled from their Virginia home to the Australian Embassy for advice about these ads, only to be

assured there are no jobs Down Under paying $50,000 to $70,000 for office receptionists.

They also found out there are no Australian companies that will pay off credit-card debts, cover travel expenses, find housing and jobs for spouses, or offer $120,000 sales management jobs.

Sweeney says Australia's six missions in the United States are inundated with as many as 400 calls and visits a week from jobless Americans who bite on the advertising by companies claiming to have a private line to $85,000 tax-free jobs.

One "Australia Wants You" exploiter told a reporter his people never promised anyone any jobs. "We only promised them an opportunity." He must mean the opportunity to be misled.

Dear Joyce: I am in an outplacement program where we rely heavily on computerized lists of companies for job leads. If hundreds of us use the same list over and over, won't it collapse from sheer weight? My counselor says no. What say you? F.P.

Dear F.P: The shared computerized job lists are indeed overworked.

Dear Joyce: I am an out-of-work software engineer and have been job hunting for several months in a down market. I have received many acknowledgment letters from companies to rTC whom I've sent my resume. About 10 percent of these acknowledgments are accompanied by a card requesting information on my sex, race and age, for "government reporting" purposes. Some of them state I must return the card before my resume can receive further consideration.

I would not object to filling out this information for government reporting purposes after a job offer was made. For a company to ask for it at such an early stage in the screening process leads me to believe that they can only be using it for discriminatory purposes. Isn't this illegal? Should I refuse to fill out the cards, or just go along with it to increase my chances of getting an interview? I.L.P.

Dear I.L.P.: State laws vary and this pre-interview policy may be illegal in your state. But with the exception of questions about arrests, there is no such thing as a list of illegal questions forbidden by federal law. The key is to what use an employer puts the information. If it is used to discriminate, the question becomes illegal, opening the employer to legal penalties.

It is in the best interest of an employer to obtain sensitive information after a person has been employed and not through a pre-employment procedure.

First check with municipal or state labor and human rights agencies that administer anti-discrimination laws to see what's illegal in your state. Ask agency personnel to telephone the card sender and inquire about the postcard screening.

If federal law prevails, contact the nearest Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office, asking a staffer to make the same telephone call.

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